22 October 2017

Ships in port or out at sea

Water, bridges, boats, and ships. That's life here. Morehead City is a small town with a small port, but it's one of the deepest ports on the U.S. east coast, according to information I've found.

This ship was in port yesterday. The bulbous blue water tower stands on land, not on the ship.

The boat above, the Capt. Stacy IV, is what is called a "party boat" — fishing parties on day trips make up most of its passengers, who were impressive in number this afternoon.

This green ship was in port today. There's that water tower again.

This very small fishing boat was cruising along not far off the beach this afternoon.

This ship has been offshore for a few days now, and I'm not sure why. Yesterday I thought it might be waiting for high tide to come into port through Beaufort Inlet. But it was still out there today.

Notice how beautiful our weather is. Tomorrow will be my last full day in North Carolina. On Monday I'll be on the road and then in the air, flying back to France.

21 October 2017

The new Beaufort bridge

The town of Beaufort (pop. 4200) was founded in the early 1700s. It's the third oldest town in North Carolina, after Bath and New Bern. Morehead City, my home town (pop. 9000), was founded in the mid-1850s, just before the American Civil War. Beaufort was always isolated by its geography, while Morehead was better connected to inland centers of population by road and by rail.

The first bridge between Morehead and Beaufort was built in the 1920s. It was two bridges, actually, and a causeway between them. Before that, boats were the main link between the two towns. The drive over unpaved roads involved going pretty far north and then back south, around a coastal river and estuary.

The original bridges between Morehead and Beaufort were drawbridges. As boat traffic on local waters increased over the years, the bridges became major bottlenecks. I got caught by the drawbridge yesterday afternoon, and traffic coming the other way was backed up for a couple of miles. The bridge on the Morehead side was replaced by a high-rise, fixed-span structure decades ago. Problem is, it carries only one lane of traffic in each direction.

Now they are finally replacing the little drawbridge on the Beaufort side with a high-rise, four-lane structure. It's only three or four miles, by the way, from the center of one town to the other. But the two towns were in different worlds for generations. I don't remember knowing anybody from Beaufort when I was growing up.

Above is the new Beaufort bridge, seen from the old Beaufort drawbridge. The new one is not open yet, but will be by next summer, they say. Maybe people in Morehead and Beaufort will get to know each other better. Tourists will certainly have an easier time visiting.

20 October 2017

A Sears Wards “kit house” in Morehead City

I don't know who mentioned it or in what context, but I learned a few days ago that there is at least one "Sears house" in Morehead City, N.C. The house is on the block I grew up on, and my sister actually lived in it for a while 35 years ago. Actually, now I've learned that it's a Montgomery Wards house...

Early in the 20th century, people could order pre-fabricated "kit houses" from the Sears or Wards catalog. I know the people (or at least one person) who lived in this house, but nobody seems to remember exactly when it was built here. It was slightly famous around town because it has a basement, whereas most of the older local houses are built on brick pilings with just a crawl space under the main floor. Newer local houses are often built on concrete slabs or, more and more often, on tall stilts.

Maybe Judith ("seinejudeet") will know what kit house model this is. [See Judith's commen below.]

P.S. Our water service was re-established yesterday at about 2 p.m. That means we didn't have running water for 30 hours. It was nobody's fault, I'm sure. Just bad luck. The management brought us a couple of gallons of water in jugs that we could use to flush the toilet. Anyway, things are back to normal now.

19 October 2017

Une journée d'enfer

The first setback was the announcement that our water would be turned off at 8 a.m. yesterday. A water main burst, and much digging and repairing had to be done. I was able to make some coffee and get a shower before 8 o'clock, but here I am typing this between 5 and 6 p.m. and we still don't have any water flowing. No flushing. No bathing. No cooking. Now I have to run to the store and buy 2 or 3 gallons of water for this evening and tomorrow morning, since it's unlikely the water will be turned back on today.

And then, when I went out to go do some shopping, the warning light came on in the car. There it was on the instrument cluster: something that looked like a tire seen in profile from the front. And it was flat. So I came back inside, got on the internet, and found the owner's manual for the car, which was not to be seen in the glove compartment. It said one of the tires needed to be pumped up, but it didn't say which one.

I went out at 9:30 and drove around to find a gas station that had a working air pump, and preferably one that didn't cost more than 50 cents. I only had two quarters. I finally found such a pump at the gas station near Walmart, and it only cost a quarter. Problem was, it didn't work.

So I drove over to an Exxon station with a Handy Mart convenience store attached. There I could get some more quarters. I pumped up all four tires, and all seemed well. It cost 6 bits (three quarters). At that point, I drove over to the gas pumps to fill up the fuel tank. With a full tank, I turned around to get back behind the wheel and immediately saw that the front tire on the drivers side was almost completely flat. I could hear air hissing out of the tire valve. By then it was noon.

I don't have a cell phone here. Luckily the woman at the register in the Handy Mart store was very helpful. She let me use her cordless phone to call the rental car office about three miles up the road. (It seems there are no coin-operated phones any more.) She let me use her phone again to call the rental company's roadside assistance number (1-800...). She let me use her phone again to call my mother to tell her I'd be late for lunch and why. She let me take the cordless phone out to my car, marooned at the pump, to get the rental contract out of the glove compartment. She then agreed to receive a subsequent call from the roadside assistance line telling me who would be coming to repair the tire and how long I would have to wait.

The repairman showed up about 30 minutes later. He quickly changed the tire, putting on the little "doughnut" spare tire in place of the flat. He told me I needed to go to the rental office, where they'd surely exchange the doughnut-tired car for one with a full set of refull-size tires. No luck there, though. We don't have any cars available today, I was told. "Zero cars." You need to drive 35 miles to New Bern, where the rental counter at the airport should be able to take care of the car exchange.

So I went and picked up my mother and we headed for New Bern at 45 mph, which was the speed the doughnut tire was rated for. We had another errand to run in New Bern anyway. At the airport, the rental agent quickly and efficiently processed the exchange and took me out to inspect the replacement vehicle. (She asked: Is there anything you need to get out of the disabled car? Just my 87-year-old mother, I said.) The disabled car was what they call a "standard compact" but the replacement car is a much more luxurious hybrid vehicle. It took me a minute or two to figure out how to get it started (it's keyless) and how to shift gears (there's a round knob for that). I like it. I think.

Now it was getting close to 3 o'clock. My mother and I went and ate some lunch in a restaurant, and then we went to the office where she had some business to take care of. Office was closed for the afternoon. Figures, doesn't it? We drove back home, where we found out we were still high and dry — sans running water. What a day! Busy for hours, but nothing really accomplished.

P.S. 6:15 p.m. I just ran out to the grocery store to buy three gallons of drinking water. When I came back into the apartment, I found that the overhead light in the kitchen no longer works. So we are high and dry and in the dark.

P.P.S. It's nearly 11 p.m. here and still no water flows from the taps.

18 October 2017


Speeding through Beaufort Inlet

Time is speeding by faster than this boat I saw racing through the inlet down at Fort Macon. Yesterday was a shopping day. I bought Texas Pete and other hot sauces, bags of dried field peas and small red beans, and other items at the supermarket to take back to France.

Then my mother, sister, and I went shopping at one of my favorite stores. It's called Roses and it's over in Beaufort. It's like what in France would be called un bazar — as in Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville (le BHV) in Paris — where they sell a little bit of everything. They had a huge bin of nice T-shirts on sale. They were $1.50 apiece or four for $5.00. They were just stuffed into the bin and you had to rummage through them to find the colors and sizes you wanted. I bought six of them. Then I found some nice, sturdy-looking flannel shirts with long sleeves (of course) and I bought two of those. Total cost for eight shirts: $20.79 (includes sales tax). That would be way less than 20 euros.